Like it or not, I turned 50 yesterday.  I love a good milestone birthday to make you take a look at yourself. 

With the passage of time, I’m sure everyone looks at the road markers of their life.  Where have they gone?  Where should they be? Who has passed them on the way? What has limited someone’s dreams? Why does it matter?

I don’t remember the celebration of the end of my first decade.  I think I must have been in 4thgrade and I was not too fond of my teacher. I know we moved that year but I can’t recall if we had known about the move in the spring of 1980 or not. It will always mark the time I hit double digits but I’m not sure it was much more than that. 

The start of my second decade was a hard one.  I had gotten pretty sick at 19 and it seemed a lot of life was starting to pass me by. I had to stay in the right lane as my peers zoomed by on the left.  So much of that time was me feeling left behind.  My brush with death (doesn’t that sound ominous) at 19 really was scarier than I probably ever have admitted.  I never voiced it to my family because I already knew they were scared like watching an accident in motion and feeling helpless that you can’t do a thing.  I was happy to make it to that road marker but also afraid it would be the last one I’d see. I felt like the stalled car on the side of the road.

My third decade was kind of fun.  I started that year with the car packed and I anxiously waited for the trip ahead of me. I was married and had a career.  My husband’s friends were mine and my friends were all golden.  Most of us were in the same stage of life.  We were in “family” mode and were actively trying to have kids. It probably was the only time that my drive was smooth without pit stops or so I would have thought.

The fourth decade was the year of confidence.  I was happy with the highway we were on even though we had some detours.  Those diversions could be gapers blocks if I chose to look back but I hit that magic age where you aren’t seeking approval of everyone and you just go with your drive. . I had the security of having a partner who was like a safety belt and would be there for me through thick and thin.

And now we are at decade number 5…and it is the year of the COVID 19 Pandemic.  Traffic has stopped and this time I wasn’t alone.  It has been interesting to me how this has effected people’s drive.  They are having trouble finding what gear to go in to and at times they seem to be going in reverse.

Many moments of my life have mirrored the pandemic world we all live in now.  I was the kid who didn’t get to experience school the same way as my predescors.  Proms and high school activities were all unavailable to me because we lived in an era where it was thought if you are too sick to come to class every day, you were too sick to participate in anything extracurricular.  College was far from the norm as I had to stop and start multiple times.  My social calendar was often changed and fun events were cancelled.  My job was lost and finances changed dramatically.  And the biggest thing is that I have lived in years with the fear of being sick.  

When all of this started, I had some people ask how I am dealing with all the roadblocks and I blatantly have said over and over….I’ve been doing this for years.  I’ve had a couple of my closest friends understand this was already my life and admit that they finally got the terror that goes along with a chronic illness. Their admission to finally having this awareness makes me love them so much for they have been riding shotgun for years. 

I used to wonder at what age would it be that we are all in the same lane…I didn’t think it would come this soon.  I really thought we would all be much older.  It has made me look back at my own strength and realize the luxury I’ve been given for years….time.  I’ve been on this backroad for years but what I’ve learned is to enjoy the scenery.  It doesn’t look the same to any of us but every road has their own potholes…you avoid them the best you can but sometimes you also just go thunk. 

You see, this will be just another mile marker for most of us.  We will look back and remember this particular year for what we have learned about ourselves and others.  It will be a time where we become resourceful and maybe a little more responsible with our decisions.  Times we have taken for granted in the past, will now be more meaningful and memorable. Our memories will be peppered with billboard imagery that is short and to the point. We won’t all take the time to read the message but hopefully the imagery will drive the point home.

For me, 50 may go down as being one of my best birthdays.  My journey allowed me not only to look out my windshield at the wondrous world ahead of me but some cherished moments as I looked back at the rearview mirror of people who have helped me get there.  

If we take each year as a road, we can feel comfort knowing this is just part of our journey and never has to end at an unwanted destination.